When Edward Enninful took the editorship of British Vogue in December 2017, we celebrated him ushering in a new era of diversity.
And the magazine’s first black editor-in-chief has not disappointed with his latest issue. Nine models grace the cover of the magazine’s May issue, celebrated as fashion’s ‘New Frontiers’.
Ghanian-born Enninful has made it clear that with this issue, he wants to not only celebrate diversity, but make it an industry norm.
“Even five years ago—and certainly 10 or 20 years ago—if you were shooting a group cover like this, the girls would not have looked like these young women do,” he writes in his editor’s letter. “But one of the great positives of the past few months is the fashion industry finally embracing a concept that has defined my entire working life: diversity.
"When I say diversity, I want to be clear that it is never just about black and white for me. It’s about diversity across the board—whether that’s race, size, socioeconomic background, religion, sexuality. That’s what I want to celebrate with this cover.”
The bi-fold cover features an impressive lineup, including Paloma Elsesser, a plus-size model who is often vocal about the problem with Western beauty standards, and the skinny ideal.
“We're told that if you're not this one archetypal kind of beauty then you're not worth it. And that's the reason why you don't get the boy, and that's the reason for all these things,” she told Allure. “It's so ingrained in us, so I've been trying to combat that forever. I call it the chubby-girl complex. Every time something goes wrong, it's because you're fat. But it's not true. That's what I'm learning as I'm getting older.”
Alongside Elsesser is Adelaide model Adut Akech, who emigrated to Australia from Sudan at the age of six. While she originally took the name 'Mary' when she moved to Australia, she changed her name back to Adut when she signed with an international modelling agency.
When Akech was at the centre of a social media controversy after a customer complained that retailer David Jones had used her photo on the cover of its summer beauty cataglogue, she rose above it. “People expect hatred from me, but they’re not going to get it,” she told SBS Dinka in 2017. “I am trying to see the bigger picture and rise.”
Halima Aden joins the line-up as the first hijab-wearing model to appear on the cover of British Vogue since the magazine’s inception in 1916. Like Akech, Aden was born in a refugee camp in Kenya before she emigrated to the US, and went on to compete in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant in 2016 wearing a hijab.
US model Selena Forrest also appears in this latest shoot by Craig McDean. Born in Louisiana, at 16 Forrest fled Hurricane Katrina with her family and headed to California. She has told i-D that she’d like to end hunger and poverty because she knows “how it feels to go without.”
A more inclusive Vogue is clearly what Enniful wants. After receiving backlash over his January issue featuring Australian actresses Margot Robbie and Nicole Kidman celebrating “Hollywood’s New Era”, Enniful has listened.
“Stock has been taken and safeguards to the way we operate have been made..." he writes in his editor’s letter.
“Yet as a new mood begins to take hold – one that will only enrich and enliven creativity in fashion – I also believe that the time has come for us to look forward. In short, it is a moment for Vogue to do what it has always done best: to offer a bold vision of what the future can – and should – look like.”